Poetter Hall: Symbol of social change and key to SCAD’s success

May
11
2016
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"Reading the City" is a Public Programs series celebrating the publication of Buildings of Savannah (University of Virginia Press). The series concludes Wednesday, May 11 at 5:30 p.m. at SCAD Museum of Art Theater with a talk and panel discussion addressing Savannah’s Urban Identity and Threatened Heritage. In this guest post, architectural history department chair and author Dr. Robin Williams addresses a key building in the story of SCAD.

An historic postcard from SCAD's special collections.

An historic postcard from SCAD's special collections.

In recent months, SCAD’s Poetter Hall has been obscured by scaffolding as its façade underwent restoration. The recent removal of the scaffolding has been like a coming-out party for the 123-year-old building, reminding us that an edifice can enjoy many lives.

Originally built in 1892 as the Savannah Volunteer Guards Armory, Poetter Hall embodies changing social and institutional priorities. Nineteenth-century Savannah witnessed the formation of many volunteer militia companies, the Volunteer Guards among the most prestigious. After their grandiose armory overlooking Wright Square burned in 1889, the Guards sought a new location on Bull Street further from the commercial district to the north. They hired Boston-architect William Gibbons Presto, who had already designed several prominent public buildings in Savannah, to formulate their new armory. Preston's castle-like design is a romantic mélange of red brick towers and Romanesque arches, suggestive of a fortress. The 24-pounder cannons flanking the entrance, discovered buried under the previous Volunteer Guard Armory during its demolition, are the oldest extant cannons forged by the U.S. government.

The complex design of the building resulted from the range of its functions. The robust ground floor arches were originally separate rentable spaces. The balconies allowed members of the Guards to watch militia companies parade on Bull Street. Behind those balconies are elaborately decorated reception rooms that reflect the social significance of militia company membership. One such room uses elaborate decorative imagery to celebrate local Native American Indian chief Tomochichi, who helped Oglethorpe establish Georgia in the 1730s and by the 1890s was reemerging in the public consciousness after a century of obscurity. At the rear stands the original drill hall, while along its north side there was a wooden rifle range, later replaced by an indoor swimming pool and now space for parking.

In 1978 the Savannah Volunteer Guards Armory became the first of many derelict buildings in Savannah to be renovated and adaptively reused by SCAD. Initially renamed Preston Hall after its architect, this flagship building hosted all college activities. So central was the building to the college’s identity that its façade long served as the SCAD logo, even adorning college keys. As SCAD acquired more buildings, its functions became increasingly selective, most notably the library occupying the former drill hall. The diversity of uses the building has housed attests both to the quality of its design and the ingenuity of SCAD’s leadership. In 1997, the building was rededicated as Poetter Hall, after the college’s co-founders May and Paul Poetter.

SCAD’s adaptive reuse has brought notable changes to the interior, the most dramatic being the enlivening of the dark-stained woodwork with bright green paint that caters to the youthful tastes of prospective students in the building’s current role as the center for SCAD admission. The next time you’re on Bull Street, stop and take a look at this newly refreshed architectural landmark.

Paradoxical Savannah: A small city with a big role

April
19
2016
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On Wednesday, April 20 at 5:30 p.m. at the SCAD Museum Of Art Theater, architectural history department chairman Dr. Robin Williams will deliver his lecture “Broadening Savannah’s Urban Identity: From the Ideal to the Real,” kicking off the Reading the City series of public programs and celebrating the release of his new book, Buildings of Savannah (University of Virginia Press). Today’s special guest post is a tailored excerpt from that book.

Few cities in America enjoy so distinctive an urban identity as Savannah, with its squares and broad streets, its trees and bordering marshes, and its remarkable state of preservation. Yet it is a place marked by paradox. Founded in 1733 as an agrarian colony of equals (with slaves, lawyers, Catholics and hard liquor banned), the city prospered greatly from industry, trade, and slavery, with those four prohibitions all becoming part of the city’s identity. Its urban plan attracts worldwide attention, yet few of its buildings are famous or appear in histories of American architecture. A relatively small city (with a population in 2016 of about 150,000), Savannah has nonetheless played a significant role in the religious, military, agricultural, transportation, and industrial history of the country. Most recently the city has served as a model of urban design for both American and foreign planners.

Although the Savannah Plan laid out by James Oglethorpe in 1733-34 is among the most celebrated urban plans in the world, historians don’t know for certain what inspired it. The plan itself involved neighborhood units called “wards,” each comprised of four “tything blocks” for residences and four “trust lots” for public buildings, a central square and a combination of civic and utilitarian streets. Despite its seemingly rigid zoning the plan actually proved to be remarkably flexible as the prescriptive uses of blocks was ignored. Although Oglethorpe evidently never intended for the town to grow beyond its original six wards, the town’s first urban expansion ironically also constituted the city’s first act of preservation. Instead of abandoning the town plan, Savannah’s newly created municipal government retained the Savannah plan ward module, adding three new wards in 1791, but at 80 percent of the size of the original six wards. Later expansions of the plan saw yet more adaptions and adjustments to fit within the irregular confines of the City Commons.

Despite its small size compared to so many other American cities (it currently ranks roughly 180th in the country, just behind Mesquite, Texas, and Clarksville, Tennessee), Savannah has played an outsized role on the national stage. It welcomed some of the earliest congregations of Lutherans, Jews, African Baptists, and Methodists, among other religious groups. The Siege of Savannah in October 1779 was the second bloodiest battle of the American Revolution, while the bombardment of Fort Pulaski in 1862 saw the first use in the world of rifled shells against a masonry fort, signaling the end of traditional fortifications. The Trustees Garden was the first experimental botanical garden in North America, Forsyth Park was among the nation’s first municipal public parks and the Candler Oak was the first tree in the country to be protected by a development covenant in 1985. There are many more ways this small Southern city has witnessed notable “firsts” and stood at the cutting edge – facts that add to its paradoxical charm.

At SCAD Savannah bikes know no season

January
29
2015
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Got spring? No doubt, our friends up North are asking that. Winter will endure for a good while longer, but when it comes to commuting to and from classes at Savannah College of Art and Design, it is eternal spring. 

That's because in a recent university survey, roughly 30 percent of SCAD Savannah students said they cycle daily or weekly. That’s compared to two percent for the general population of commuters in Savannah and the national average of just over one percent. Can’t say that we blame you, New England.

With major infrastructure improvements coming soon to Savannah streets, thanks to advocates like Savannah Bicycle Campaign, photo opps like these are sure to grow.

 

 

Golden #bike at #SCAD #style

A photo posted by Marc Mueller (@muellermm) 

 

A photo posted by @scaddotedu on

Congratulations, graduates! SCAD commencement in pictures

November
24
2014
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Here's to the 413 new alumni from Savannah College of Art and Design who graduated in the university's 35th commencement ceremonies. We agree with Academy Award-winning screenwriter Geoffrey Fletcher's characterization of you as individuals and as a class: you are brilliant 'containers of gifts that you will share with the world.' Please keep us posted on all that you do.


 

Made in the South artisans to watch

November
25
2014
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The fifth installment of Garden & Gun’s Made in the South Awards issue is on newsstands. Who better to partner with to honor regional artisans than Savannah College of Art and Design, a clearinghouse of emerging makers? Before they were announced, this year’s Made in the South trophy-takers in the categories of Outdoor, Food, Home, Drink and Style & Design were celebrated at SCAD. Below are a few of our own Made in the South stars who got their start in SCAD classrooms.

Groovebox by Eric Green
Made In: Savannah, GA and San Luis Obispo, CA
Est.: Launching Spring 2015
Price: Dependent on product/size

When SCAD was building its experimental micro-house community, SCADpad®, it needed a solution for the community garden and found it in Eric Green’s (M.F.A., design management) Groovebox. The modular planters fulfilled the mandate for a sustainable, adaptable design. The transformer of indoor-outdoor furniture, all pieces in the collection - planters, table, fire pit and stool – come flat-packed for snappy assembly. Eric’s user-centered design approach recently caught the attention of TED Talks organizers who invited him to furnish the outdoor spaces of their annual event in Vancouver, BC.

groovebox-furniture.com

Q’wik 15 by John Gray Parker
Made In: Savannah, GA
Est.: Coming soon
Price: $10,000 for one deck and two hulls

John Gray’s (M.A., industrial design; M.F.A., service design) passion for sailing and certification as a US Sailing Level 1 instructor is reflected in Q’wik 15, a modular catamaran boating system for junior sailors. The ultimate racing boat is easy to learn, but complex enough to build skills. And it’s versatile. Q’wik 15 can transition from high-performance powerboat to sailboat and rowboat, adding value for families making a life-long investment in the sport. A model of Q’wik 15 turned heads at IBEX, even before John Gray built the full-scale prototype with help from SCAD’s marine design students. Q’wik 15 will have the rare distinction of fostering both promising young designers and sailors.

Frannie’s Gluten Free Muffins by Frances Shaw
Made In: Atlanta, GA
Est.: 2010
Price: $6.49 for the 4pk

Non-GMO organic fruits, veggies, eggs and coconut oil are among the ingredients in Frances Shaw’s muffins. But it’s what’s not included that makes her products a staple in the natural foods section of 200 Kroger stores. Frances didn’t partner with certified gluten-free bakery Pure Knead to be hip, she did so out of necessity. Celiac Disease forced Frances to leave SCAD during her senior year, seven credits shy of earning her degree. But she turned a set back into a line of baked goods that are safe for people with most major food allergies. Natasha Sokulski (B.F.A., advertising; B.F.A., graphic design, 2011) designed the packaging and branding.

franniesglutenfree.com

Folk Fibers by Maura Ambrose
Made In: Austin, TX
Est.: 2011
Price: $3,900 for Indiana quilt shown

Maura Ambrose’s (B.F.A., fibers, 2006) Folk Fibers was born from a love of farming, natural dyes and quilting. Her live-off-the-land philosophy and skilled hands turn weeds like goldenrod and worn out scraps into stunning quilts that will be around long after we’re gone. Color drives Maura’s approach to her new works of art. It also might be the spark that flamed the interest of Martha Stewart and John Mayer, who tapped her to stitch the cover art for 'XO'. If your work could draw the world to wherever you were, wouldn’t you also choose to live in your own personal paradise?

folkfibers.com
 

Service Brewing Co. and Meredith Sutton
Made In: Savannah, GA
Est.: 2014
Price: $8.99 for the 6pk


Meredith Sutton (B.F.A., metals and jewelry, 2003) didn’t know her gift of a home brewing kit to Kevin Ryan would pack such inspiration. Three years later and her office is the tasting room she designed for Service Brewing Co., a veteran owned craft brewery. Meredith presides over the creative branding for the brewery started by Kevin and Master Brewer Dan Sartin, both Army veterans. Her artistic vision is reflected in the bottles and labels, which also bear the mark of house illustrator and Army vet Katherine Sandoz (M.F.A., illustration, 1997; MF.A., painting, 2005). Meredith quite literally also creates buzz by keeping the brewery bees, whose honey fuels the fermentation process and adds local flavor to Service Brewing Cos.’s small batch brews.

servicebrewing.com
meredithannesutton.com

Heidi Elnora
Made In: Birmingham, AL
Est.: 2006
Price: $2,200 and up

Heidi Baker (B.F.A., fashion, 2002) launched her bridal atelier with her signature Build-A-Bride collection, which included one simple silhouette and a dozen different trims. The permutations and combinations that brides could create were endless and so, it seems, are the customers who knock on Heidi’s door in search of a work of art to wear on their big day. Today she has three different dress collections, which can be found in more than 30 boutiques nationwide. But Heidi is most proud that every one of the trims she has designed is handmade in her home state. Previously a contestant on Project Runway, Heidi returns to television in Spring 2015 on the TLC show inspired her customizable gowns, Bride by Design.

heidielnora.com

Morgan Rhea by Morgan Richards
Made In: Charleston, W. VA
Est.: 2014
Price: $2,500

The “Silently Speaking Gratitude" collection by Morgan Richards (B.F.A., accessory design, 2014) is inspired by loved ones who have influenced her life. Morgan inscribes personal stories into hand-made leather goods to create one-of-a kind, heirloom-quality pieces. As if the gesture of painstakingly etching one’s gratitude into bags and accessories crafted of Buffalo hide wasn’t enough, consider the attention these tokens of affection have garnered. Her Ronald Briefcase won the Best Student Made category of the Independent Handbag Designer Awards and was featured in InStyle Magazine. Morgan and those she commemorates won’t be forgotten anytime soon.

Morganrhea.com

Do you know a SCAD student or alumnus who should be on this list? Please include your suggestions in the comments below.

Studio Logic: inside the studio of Marcus Kenney

June
20
2014
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For the next post in our Studio Logic series, exploring the studios of professional artists and designers, we interviewed Marcus Kenney (M.F.A., photography, 1998). In a two-story Victorian in the heart of Savannah, Georgia, Marcus works across mediums - sculpture, paint, photography and collage - to mastermind reflections on wildlife and Americana. In addition to being among a collection of artists responsible for the aesthetic of Savannah College of Art and Design’s micro-house experiment, SCADpad® North America, Marcus recently completed a residency at Lux Art Institute and is currently showing his paintings at Georgia College Museum.

Thread: What is your ideal work environment?
Marcus Kenney: I am pretty flexible when it comes to working space. I have worked in a variety of studio of spaces, from 5000 square feet warehouses, to a 100 square feet garage. My current studio has a bit of a domestic appeal as opposed to an industrial one. I enjoy the neighborhood and interaction with the neighbors. I have a large vinyl collection and during the workday I am constantly flipping over records and listening to random recording artist.

SCAD: Do you work best surrounded by objects that inspire you?
MK: Studios tend to reflect their owners and I admit that my studio is a mess and full of lots of contradicting objects. There are thousands of books, hundreds of small sculptures and boxes full of interesting objects like ladies dresses, wigs, fur coats and hats from around the world and rolls of wall paper. There are some cobwebs in the corners and surprises to be found; things I have forgotten I had and things that I haven't used in years. There are lots of reasons to create art and my art is about our culture. Historically, the way to study a culture is by the objects it produces. I find it responsible to study our ephemera and detritus and edit and shape them into valid cultural conversations.

I enjoy turning the world into my art supply store and making a game of searching for the right elements to create a work of art.

SCAD: Did your studio change when you evolved from 2D TO 3D work?
MK
: I currently have four horses living in my studio! Honestly, it has not changed much. I have always created sculpture and so there are large amounts of materials lying around. I still paint occasionally, so all of my painting materials are there, as well. I like to keep lots of things on hand because I never know how the day is going to unfold and where inspiration may strike. Some days I may start a painting and other days I may work on sculpture. Often, I won’t go to the studio at all, but spend the day photographing or searching for materials to work with. The pleasure of being a contemporary artist is that there are no set rules.

“My studio is a super buffet with all kinds of options to feed my creative hunger.”

SCAD: What’s one thing you can’t work without?
MK
: Recently it has been a thimble on my finger. I have worked with one so much the last several years that my forefinger feels a little naked without it. For many years I carried a camera with me 24 hours a day, and before that it was an X-Acto knife with a box of new blades. It changes as my work changes. 

SCAD: What's another unique aspect of your studio?
MK
: I only work on the first floor. Upstairs has been reserved for other artists to work in. I have had some really special and unique artists work upstairs. Monica Cook (B.F.A., painting, 1996), Scott Griffin, Lorie Corbus (B.F.A., fibers, 2002), Paige Russell, Cedric Smith, Jameid Ferrin, Tobia Makover (M.F.A., photography, 2001) and others have all created inspired work upstairs.

Here's to creating inspired work and the places where we make it.

The future of preservation: Will a new generation take up the cause?

June
16
2014
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Growing up, I regularly thumbed through family photo albums. This ritual of navigating the worn, yellowing pages of images, as if I were traversing history, was eye opening. The photos contextualized my place in that history. So I panic when I think that my daughter may not experience that same sense of belonging because these physical signposts do not exist for her to explore, at least not in a form that she can touch or feel, except to swipe at them on the screens of the devices behind which they’re trapped.

Photos of my great grandfather and grandmother from our family tree.

This angst I have over not being a better steward of our young family’s growing photo collection makes me a preservationist. That’s what a group of students from Savannah College of Art and Design helped me to understand. The last people you might associate with being champions for the old and non-digital, all younger than me, recently gathered to present their plan for engaging new generations in the pursuit of preservation. Their solution, a historic preservation patch for Girl Scouts, is a collaboration between SCAD’s historic preservation department, the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the Girl Scouts of Historic Georgia.

A prototype of the patch designed and created by SCAD students.

One of the first things the scouts needed to learn, they realized, is what exactly historic preservation is. It’s a good question, actually, for adults and kids, one that promotes an awareness of our surroundings and the laying down of our devices in order to delve into community. As the SCAD students, ages 21 and up, teach in their guide for leaders and scouts, historic preservation goes beyond saving buildings to include protecting artifacts, culture and, yes, even family history and photos. Though Savannah, where the students are pursuing their degrees, is an epicenter of historic districts and preservation, their guide is intentionally broad enough to relate to any city in the U.S.


SCAD historic preservation students partnered with graphic design, dramatic writing, fibers and sequential art students to create the guide. To earn a patch, scouts must fulfill seven activities that fall under different categories of preservation, like personal history.

Any tool that promotes historic preservation to the next generation must be conducive to mass appeal, lest the fervor for ‘saving places’ dies with the present generation. One indicator that doesn’t bode well for the future of preservation, for example, is the average age of those who read Preservation Magazine: 61.

The apparent apathy toward historic preservation among young people is something that keeps preservationists like SCAD professor Connie Pinkerton, who led the students in the creation of the Girl Scout patch, talking.

Connie, a former Girl Scout whose daughter is also a Girl Scout, notes that her millennial generation students must carry the torch or, more appropriately, an LED light in support of historic preservation. A quick survey of her students about what could possibly have sparked their interest in historic preservation as an area of study is a case study for hope.

Savannah’s storied, historic buildings, many of them rehabilitated by SCAD, drew Bethany Emenhiser (M.F.A., historic preservation) to historic preservation. “People made things with their hands and those things and places are still standing. But today, even in our high-tech world, homes are being blown over by tornados,” she said of her admiration for preservation.

“Going green and sustainability are so in, but preservation was the first sustainability.”

That observation is astute for a student whose peers, by contrast, spend hours upon hours in a building near hers using the latest in 3D printing technologies.

Likewise, Jake Eichorn (B.F.A., historic preservation) became interested in preservation when studying at SCAD opened his eyes to the treasures of historic Savannah.  The 21-year-old, who will spend his summer helping a professor rehab a Victorian, gets starry-eyed talking about property record chains and a future career fixing up and flipping historic homes. For Jake, breaking down the fundamentals of historic preservation into a form that ten and 11-year-olds can understand was a rewarding challenge, just as the pursuit of the historic preservation patch will no doubt be also.

I’m glad my daughter, armed with our family photo album, will have the option to pursue this patch if she so chooses.

The historic preservation patch will be unveiled at the 2014 National Preservation Conference (Nov. 11-14) at SCAD Savannah.

AD's Margaret Russell's 'simple truths' for graduates

June
2
2014
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A good commencement address is irresistible. Whether graduating or firmly planted in career or school, the distilled life experience and wisdom are too convenient and enlightening to pass up. And so, in case you missed Savannah College and Art and Design's 2014 commencement ceremonies, here's speaker Margaret Russell's 'simple truths', which she delivered to SCAD's 1,560 graduates in Atlanta and Savannah after tracing her rise to the helm of Elle Decor and now Architectural Digest.

I’m going to end with some simple truths, some things to keep in mind as you enter the workforce. These are more pragmatic than they are profound. Actually, they’re tips to help you do well at work and to keep you from annoying your future bosses.

Be early.
I remain challenged by this, but I’m usually still the first person at the AD offices each morning. It’s better to consistently arrive early at work than to have to consistently stay late.

Be a trouble shooter and problem solver.
These are key qualities that everyone in every industry looks for when hiring. Think ahead and always anticipate the unexpected.

Expect good and don’t gossip.
Don’t ever write emails that might land you in trouble if read in public. Email should communicate facts, not emotion.

Be aware of the power of social media and never post a photo when it’s clear that you’ve had far too much fun.
Your bosses are also on Google, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and they will find you. Try imagining that your social accounts have a pause button and take a breath before you hit send.

Embrace change as it’s the most constant aspect of your future.
The happiest people around you are those who are flexible and adapt well.

Don’t be afraid to ask; ask for everything. Just never have a sense of entitlement when you do.
Some of the best stories published in the magazines I’ve edited are there because I had the nerve to go after them.

Don’t be afraid, period.
Life’s too short. Conquer your fears today.

Pay attention.
Listen, stay focused, be ambitious, have common sense, show good judgment.

Do the right thing.
You’ll never go wrong by doing what you truly believe is right.

Give back.
I love AD, but the most rewarding work I do is philanthropic or political. Volunteer, develop your personal sense of social responsibility and integrate it into your daily life.

Think green.
Please think green because your forebears did not. Use your genius to save our planet.

Find your passion and your joy.
I hire people who are passionate about their work. I’ve always been told that there’s no place for emotion at work, and indeed that’s true. But I know for sure that being passionate about what you do will drive you to far greater success.

Feed your creativity. Get off your iPhone. Look up.
Don’t passively email someone sitting a few feet from you in the office. Talk to each other, write thank you notes, read books.

Don’t settle. Expect the best. Want to be the best.

You are so well prepared to make your way and to change the world and we can’t wait to see what you’ll do. Congratulations, class of 2014. We honor and admire you. Here’s to your brilliant future. Here’s to tomorrow.

Share your favorite or most memorable piece of commencement advice by posting it in the comments below.

 

Dr. Maya Angelou's 1998 commencement address

May
29
2014
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In this season of graduations and rites of passage, we are pleased to feature one of the shining moments from Savannah College of Art Design's 35-year history: Dr. Maya Angelou's 1998 commencement address in Savannah, Georgia. Listening to Dr. Angelou's speech to SCAD grads reminds us of the gift of her legacy and our gratitude for her timeless life's work.

 

Drone captures sand sculpting contest on Tybee

May
4
2014
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When you're a student at Savannah College of Art and Design, your medium isn't restricted to the traditional and the classroom extends to the ocean.

 

Hundreds of students, alumni and faculty focused their talents on the sands of Tybee Island, Ga. to create SCAD Fine Arts' and Foundation Studies' 2014 parade of sculptures that welcomed summer's arrival and enthralled thousands of winter-weary beach goers. In addition to indulging in the open air studio, each individual entrant or team competed for $5,000 in prizes. The first place winners are:

Sand Sculpture and Alumni’s Choice Award: #4 “Walden”

Chennon Roberts, B.F.A. animation student, Auburn, AL
Josh Beam, B.F.A. illustration student, North Charleston, SC

Sand Castle:  #1 “Ice”

Adrian Tinoco, B.F.A. visual effects student, Key Biscayne, FL
Gian Lombardi, B.F.A. visual effects student, Doral, FL

Sand Relief: #13 “Turtles”

Emily Luking, B.F.A. fibers student, Ellicott City, MD
Raven Brown, B.F.A. fibers student, Marietta, GA
Lydia Hartley, B.F.A. fibers student, Wilmington, NC

Wind Sculpture: #7 “Wing-tipped vortices”

Jamie Niles, B.F.A. painting student, Richmond Hill, GA

Gray’s Reef Best Underwater Creature: #7 “Hermit Crab”

Benjamin Breslow, B.F.A. industrial design student, Platte City, MO
Jeff Dull, B.F.A. industrial design student, Strasburg, PA
Michael Soleo, B.F.A. industrial design student, Lexington Park, MD

35th Anniversary Spirit Award: #7 “35 Years"

Hugo Aguilera, B.F.A., painting, 2011
Will Penny, M.F.A., painting, 2013, B.F.A., painting, 2008

SCAD Castle Award: #4 “Poetter Hall”

Paula Hoffman, professor, foundation studies
Matt Toole, professor, foundation studies